- By Roger Terry
Thomas Earl Petty passed away on October 2, 2017, at the age of 66 due to cardiac arrest. On that day, the world lost more than just a musician. The world lost an irreplaceable icon, one of the greatest rockers to ever play and a genuinely terrific person. Petty dedicated his life to rock ‘n’ roll, but in the end paid the price, and sadly, the price was his life.
When Tom Petty was first discovered in his home in Malibu, there had been speculation on whether or not he had passed away. This caused a widespread commotion across social media, which made the situation much harder for the rest of the family. After the confirmation of his passing, there was a kind of mystery surrounding his final moments.
Just recently, his autopsy report came back to show something very common in America today. In a New York Times article, Joe Coscarelli stated that “The coroner, Jonathan Lucas, said that Mr. Petty’s system showed traces of the drugs fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetyl fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl.” To hear that Tom Petty passed away due to a drug overdose, well, it was heartbreaking to say the least.
While on tour with The Heartbreakers for their 40th Anniversary, something happened to Tom that inevitably led to him taking so many of those pills. Near the beginning of the tour, he was made aware of a slight fracture in his hip. He was advised to cancel touring in order to have it fixed, but he refused to cancel because he felt it would disappoint his fans. One of his closest friends and rock icon herself, Stevie Nicks – former member of Fleetwood Mac – spoke out after the departure of her dear friend. In an article from the Huffington Post, Nicks said, “The loss of Tom Petty has just about broken my heart. He was not only a good man to go down the river with, as Johnny Cash said, he was a great father and he was a great friend. He was one of my best friends. My heart will never get over this.” Nicks would go on to say, “He should’ve canceled, and he should’ve just gone home and gone to the hospital. But not Tom. He was gonna go down that river. And so, God bless him, he finished his tour at the Hollywood Bowl. Three shows. And one week later he died — but he got down the river. So Tom, I know you’re standing next to me cause you always have been for so many years.” To say the least, Tom Petty had been well-loved and cherished for the generous man that he was.
The death of Tom Petty hurt many hearts in the days since his passing, myself included. Though, it seemed his friends felt and shared a pain that none of his fans could have imagined. From Stevie Nicks, to Bob Dylan and even Bruce Springsteen, the music world was left rocking on its heels. In a Rolling Stones article by David Fricke, Bruce Springsteen forms a haunting image of when he broke the news about Tom’s death. “I got the phone call and told the folks in my house,” he said. “There were shrieks of horror. You couldn't quite believe it. We were from the same generation of rock & rollers. We started around the same time and had a lot of the same influences. And when I lived in California, I got to know him quite well. He was just a lovely guy who loved rock & roll and came up the hard way.” He might have “came up the hard way,” but now Tom Petty can gently Free Fall into the annals of popular culture and will be remembered for many more years to come.
It is tragic with how Tom Petty passed away, but he left us with something that will never die: his music, his legacy and the memories he made while on this Earth. He left us all heartbroken, but in the end, he left us something hidden in every song, and that was a piece of heart. With that, over time, just maybe, he can help us mend our fractured hearts with the help of his jammin’ tunes. We love you, Tom. Rest easy.